by Martin MacGregor (@MartMacG) A brand’s media tactics in 2019 comes down to two simple concepts: stacking and pulsing. For once, these are not just new buzzwords but very apt descriptors.

Disrupt, gamify, holistic, ideate, integrate. Marketing meetings never fail to deliver an endless list of annoying terms. I’m never sure if everyone understands what they mean but there are always a lot of nodding heads. Nobody would never admit having no clue. And they make for a great game of meeting bingo.

Ultimate success

I managed to finish the Comrades Marathon once and the best piece of advice I received was to write something on each arm: on the left “Slow down” and on the right “Don’t stop”. It was a very long day and these slightly opposing lines were the perfect reminder of how to get to the end. Go too fast, and the inevitable crash and burn. Stop, and it was like giving precious minutes back to the race. I made it with three-and-a-half minutes to spare.

Stacking and pulsing are the media equivalent when brands are looking at their marketing year — two very simple tactics that should lead to ultimate success.

Media stacking talks to the current reality that consumers bounce around and even simultaneously consume multiple media. The old days of picking one medium and hoping that the necessary impact will be made are gone. Whatever the message is, it needs to live across whichever media the consumer is likely to engage with. It could be reality TV and Facebook; it could be talk radio and Twitter; it could be travel magazines and Instagram — or multiple combinations of these and many others.

The bottom line? For each target consumer group, there is a preferred stack of media. Brands need to understand what these are and the way they are consumed.

Consistent presence

But a stack of media needs a pulse.

In medical terms, a pulse is described as a “rhythmical throbbing of the arteries”. Brands used to think a CPR jolt every now and then would be sufficient to keep them going. Brand memory was an actual thing. No longer. Brands need a pulse, which means consistent presence.

This is often called “always on” but I think pulse is a better descriptor. Without a pulse, the brand will die.

Daily or weekly activity used to only be the territory of retailers. These days, every brand feels like a retail brand and is wanting to sell at every opportunity. The good news is that consumers’ media activity has massively increased and they never seem to switch off. Pulsing is a viable tactic for any brand.

So, next time you hear a recommendation for a brand to stack and pulse, don’t roll your eyes. Finally, here are some buzzwords that actually useful.


Martin MacGregorMartin MacGregor (@MartMacG) is managing director of Connect, an M&C Saatchi Company, with offices in Johannesburg and Cape Town. Martin has spent 18 years in the industry, and has previously worked at Ogilvy and was MD of MEC Nota Bene in Cape Town. He contributes the monthly “Media Redefined” column, in which he challenges norms in the media space, to

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